Frequently asked questions about Penn State's climate survey

October 26, 2018

Penn State is conducting a University-wide survey of students to learn more about their attitudes and experiences related to sexual assault and harassment, and their knowledge of the resources available to them. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about the survey.

Q: Why is this survey being done?

Penn State is conducting the University-wide survey of students to learn more about their attitudes and experiences related to sexual assault and harassment, and their knowledge of the resources available to them. This is the second survey of its type being conducted. The first survey, performed in 2015, was one of 18 recommendations from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment that President Eric Barron formed and which the University is in the process of implementing. By better understanding students’ experiences and perceptions, the University will be better able to help address these issues. The results of this ongoing survey are being used to help guide the University’s continuing efforts to provide resources, information and support to students to combat sexual misconduct.

Q: What will Penn State do with the survey results?

The results will provide crucial information to the University as it remains focused on strengthening its resources to prevent sexual misconduct from happening and to respond appropriately when it does. The University has already implemented or begun to implement many key changes that came from an in-depth study and report from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment. These results will provide information about the prevalence of various types of sexual misconduct and knowledge of resources available, allowing the University to build on its efforts to stop sexual misconduct.

Q: Who created the survey?

Penn State worked with DatStat, a data research company the University has partnered with on other student surveys in the past. The survey Penn State used is a modified version of the Administration Researcher Campus Climate Collaborative (ARC3) survey, a free campus climate survey created by a consortium of researchers and professionals that was created based on suggestions from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. (For more on the ARC3 survey, go to:

Q: How were the questions created?

After reviewing a number of options, Penn State chose to use the ARC3 survey with minor changes. As part of the process, the Office of Student Affairs Research and Assessment administered a pilot survey in spring 2015 to a smaller pool of students at University Park, Penn State Altoona, Lehigh Valley and Fayette, and Penn State Behrend. The respondents provided useful feedback, which was incorporated into the final survey.

The survey questions were designed to be neutral and allow students to respond honestly. The questions and students’ responses provide information that is crucial for the University to fully understand what students are experiencing, including gaining more accurate information about the frequency and types of sexual misconduct that take place.

Q: Some of the questions are very specific/graphic? Is that necessary?

The survey does include specific questions about nonconsensual sexual contact. This information is crucial to gaining a complete and accurate understanding of students’ experiences. Asking questions about students’ experiences with specific behavior rather than using more general terms such as “sexual misconduct” provides for more accurate information.

Q Why isn’t there a question specifically about rape?

Because people may define rape in different ways, the survey included questions about specific types of sexual misconduct, including being the victim of unwanted touching, penetration or attempted penetration.

Q: Are the responses anonymous?

Yes, the responses are completely anonymous and the survey is voluntary.

Q: How does Penn State compare with other universities? Are there national surveys?

Some comparisons between the Penn State survey and the recent survey by the American Association of Universities can be made. On a number of questions, it is difficult to draw a comparison between Penn State and the more well-known AAU survey because the questions are not phrased in a manner that would permit an accurate comparison.

Q: Where can I find more information about Penn State’s initiatives to combat sexual misconduct?

The Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment’s final report and recommendations:

President Eric Barron’s acceptance of the 18 task force recommendations:

A look at the survey before its release:

The University’s appointment of a Title IX coordinator:

University issues ‘Call to Action’ to combat sexual misconduct:

The creation of Stand for State, a University-wide bystander intervention initiative:

The establishment of the Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response, which is focused on providing help and support, reporting incidents and offering resources to the campus community:

The hosting of a University hotline for reporting sexual misconduct:

Q: What resources are available to students who may be victims of unwanted nonconsensual sexual behavior?

Sexual misconduct on college campuses has been a nationwide topic of conversation and Penn State is committed to addressing the issue. Listed below are resources — including centers, medical services, counseling services, advocacy and police and safety services — available to Penn State students and others in the University community who have experienced sexual assault and relationship violence.


Support and Advocacy Resources

Confidential Support

Confidential resources will not disclose your identity and any identifying information you have shared without your permission, and seeking advice from a confidential counselor does not constitute a report to the University or law enforcement.

Title IX Coordinator, Chris Harris

The Title IX coordinator has responsibility to make sure that the University responds appropriately to any student impacted by sexual harassment (including sexual violence) or gender-based discrimination or harassment.

Sexual Assault Medical Services

Additional resources for the Penn State community can be found at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 23, 2020